My Most Recent QSO's

Saturday, January 10, 2015

ZS2DL in South Africa is my 108th DXCC Station

My focus for the last couple of months has been the NAQCC monthly challenge and this month  the "challenge" is to work stations whose call letters spell out "Happy New Year"-  in seven different languages. I've decided to use as many DX stations as possible to complete this months game. 

Using 5 watts of power is interesting when working those long distance stations. Along with a bit of luck, it takes a special skill to get a station to hear you at more than 5,000 miles,  This contact was one I will remember for a long time. Straight line distance to this station in Port Elizabeth, South Africa is 8,465 miles.

I usually watch a DX cluster and "filter" a specific band when I'm "hunting". This evening it was the 30 meter band which is limited to "Morse Code" and transmit power of 200 watts. Being a QRP operator, this band is radio paradise.

More than anything else, I happened to "be at the right place at the right time".  As I tuned around the band, I heard a distinct Z letter, and strong too. I was expecting a L to follow but the following letters didn't sound right. (most of the time these guys are sending around 25 wpm)  After hearing a station work him here on the east coast, I correctly copied the remaining last letters and realized the second letter was a S.

I figured all was lost when I saw the "first" post on the DX cluster, (this is usually the nail in the coffin when a rare station appears to a QRP operator) - and sure to follow, a half dozen stations immediately called him. He was transmitting simplex but the second station to work him tuned "down" instead of "up". As the third station called, all others followed the traditional "up" 1 procedure.

I remained "down" 1 and worked him easily with about 3 watts.

I finished my "challenge" for January today (the 10th) with an impressive amount of DX stations in the log book. Completing the challenge for this month was an amusing game. The solution called for 84 letters from the combination of 20 different letters. (ABDEGHIJKMNOPRSTUVWY)

I used DX stations for 58 letters and I've logged three new DXCC countries this month.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My 2014 Summary of the Year

In summary of last year, I've reached a point in my life where my enjoyment of QRP radio is something I want to share with all my friends and family. Ham radio, IMHO, is the greatest hobby in the world. I sincerely wish more people would enter the hobby and meet the fine folks we all know, blog with, and talk to on the air everyday. There's something for everyone in this hobby.

Spare time is at a premium this year but I still love every radio minute. I've been a ham nearly 25 years now and still find the same enthusiasm for the hobby as I did the day I made my first contact. The older I get, the more important I find keeping the mind sharp is essential for a happy life. I can't think of a better "senior" exercise than Morse Code to keep the old brain functioning.

I wasn't on the air as much in 2014, as the year before, but I still managed to work an average of at least one station a day; my total contacts for the year of 2014 was actually 413 QSOs, and I enjoyed every one of them. My log book now has 2,847 entries with 505 NAQCC members and a total of 816 DX contacts. I actually worked a couple of new DXCC countries on Christmas eve this year which brought my total to 107. I'm amazed every day that I work DX with QRP power and an indoor random wire antenna. Last year I put my QRP rig behind an enormous beam antenna, but found working DX like shooting fish in a bucket. Where's the challenge?

I challenge all those who work those long distance stations with a KW and a massive antenna to experience the exhilaration of doing the same thing with 5 watts and a piece of random wire. Twice this year, with stations in Japan and Slovenia, I've had DX stations "stop" a "pile up" after seeing my "cluster post" with "QRP" in the remarks section. (I never send QRP at the end of my call sign when working a long distance DX station). When a sending station takes that extra minute to acknowledged me with a return call (they're actually calling me) a few moments afterwards, the congratulatory "well done" brings me the greatest sense of accomplishment in all of radio land.

I've had more responsibilities with the family this year. My dad is now 94 years old and still living independently and still driving his car. One of my grand kids is learning to drive now, and the others are involved in sports. My youngest grand son will begin school soon. Four cats and a small dog also keep me busy. The dog rules....

I took the position of VP and Treasurer of the NAQCC  club this year. I'm the leader of the West Virginia Chapter and try to schedule an outing each month. We have a breakfast meeting each month. I do a weekly QRS net and write a monthly article about the WV activities for the club newsletter . I also do a monthly mass e-mailing highlighting the "monthly challenge ".

I knew I would not be on the air as often this year when I took on the responsibilities of the Vice Presidency of the club. It was a conscious decision and I have no regrets. I hope to use the position as a way to to share my hobby with more and more people through the NAQCC club. Some of the ways I've learned to maximize my diminished "air time" is by using a laptop or my tablet when I'm traveling out of town. The learning experience has actually been a good thing.

When I'm traveling and can't take the QRP rig with me, I use a CW program on the laptop and send dots and dashes to hams all over the world. I enjoy using "software defined receivers " on the web to keep track of activity on the bands. There's also a variety of ham radio programs on the web which I enjoy when using the laptop. All these options fit well with my basic philosophy of portability and QRP radio.

The winter months are a bit too cold for much outdoor activity now, but as soon as the opportunity presents itself, you can be sure I'll be doing more camping. I had forgotten the joy of watching the stars from the woods and chatting with friends on the 40 meter band. Despite my age, I've learned how to tolerate the hard surface of the ground while camping. It's a small price to pay considering the sights and sounds of nature all around me. Yes...even bears, bobcats and coyotes.

Staying connected to the earth is a wholesome and worthy activity. Simplicity and QRP radio fit my basic philosophy of keeping everything "as simple as possible". I'm looking forward to the year 2015.

Even though I may not be on the "air" as often this year, I still find this hobby the best in the world. My advice to everyone about ham radio, in the forthcoming year, would be the phrase coined by W2LJ -- "do more with less".  Doing so, you will find, is a great pleasure. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Club Puzzle Brings Some New DXCC Countries

How many times have you asked yourself if you've worked about "everything" you can get out of five watts and a simple wire antenna? I know I did when I received my DXCC award a few months ago. I had resigned myself to that illusion and decided, from here on out, to just enjoy long QSO's with old, and new friends. I was, and still am, happy with that decision. My current logbook is full of those call signs with a little * beside them.

I'm still in that mode, but as I began a new game originated and produced by the NAQCC Club two months ago, I found myself, again, scanning the DX clusters to complete what Gary Meyan (K1YAN) of Plymouth Massachusetts calls "The Monthly Challenge" .  


The object of the game is to complete a series of "words" which revolve around a common monthly theme. The theme changes every month. To complete the game (or challenge)  you use the letters of the station call signs you've worked while you're on the air.

Here's how it works: Tutorial Explanation

I know, with my station at least, DX competition is really tough when forced to operate QRP with an indoor antenna. In my case, that means a 50' piece of Radio Shack speaker wire which is routed around the perimeter of an upstairs bedroom.

These two new stations make my 107th DX contact.

Getting back to the "challenge"....I was looking for the last few letters in the game when I decided to bring up the DX clusters and "see" what was out there. My worksheet only needed a few more letters for completion.

In November, the theme worked around the names of food on the Thanksgiving Day table. In December, the theme was "Marconi" (the father of radio). If you've never tried this game, you have no idea what you're missing. It will encourage you to "get on the air" and even chase a little DX at times. I'm still enjoying long QSO's on the air, but it's also a good excuse to chase DX.